HC Deb 18 May 1848 vol 98 cc1195-7

The SOLICITOR GENERAL moved the Second Reading of the Encumbered Estates (Ireland) Bill, and proposed that the Bill should be now read a second time without discussion, and committed pro formâ. The debate to be taken on the Bill again going into Committee.

The EARL of LINCOLN said, that, owing to the extreme and paramount importance of a measure for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates in Ireland, he was anxious, before the Motion passed, to obtain an assurance from Government, without which they could not proceed with safety, and he was induced to do so from the peculiar position in which the House found itself with regard to the measure. The House could not forget that it was introduced into the other House nearly at the commencement of the Session, and that it had been allowed to fall asleep for several months. He had on more than one occasion pressed the Government with regard to the progress of the Bill, and had received the assurance of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that it would be immediately proceeded with in the other House of Parliament. Little progress was made in it, however, till last week, when, to the surprise of every Member of that House, within three days, it was recommitted, read a third time, and passed, and brought down to that House—thus showing what appeared to be unnecessary delay in the first instance, and precipitate haste in the next. He must say, also, that he thought it a most unusual course with regard to a Bill involving intricate questions of law, and especially of Chancery law, which had been under the consideration of the House of Lords for three or four months—a House where all the eminent law authorities had seats— that after it had left that House only three or four days, it should now be proposed to be read a second time and committed pro formæ, with the view of introducing alterations into it in order to obviate the strong objections which the Solicitor General entertained to the Bill as it then stood. What he (Lord Lincoln) wanted was an assurance that the Government were prepared with the amendments which they were desirous of inserting in the Bill. His reason for asking that assurance was this. He did not say it with any taunt, but he could not help recollecting that a similar course was taken with the Health of Towns Bill to that which was now proposed with regard to this Bill, the consequence of which had been a delay of six weeks; and though from the early period at which that Bill had been committed pro formæ, the subsequent delay might not operate as an impediment to its passing, he did fear that, if the same course was pursued in this instance, another Session of Parliament would pass without legislation on this subject, or, what was worse, they would have to be contented with crude legislation. He wished, then, to know if the Government were prepared with their Amendment, because, if not, the result might be that the Bill would be hung up for six weeks—that then the Bill would be laid on the table perhaps in an entirely new form, and then they would be told either to proceed immediately with its consideration, or else be compelled to oppose it altogether.

LORD J. RUSSELL begged to say, in answer to the noble Lord, that the Solicitor General had prepared his Amendments; but these having, like the Bill itself, to be submitted to various persons, he had not got them in the exact form in which he might introduce them. He assured the noble Lord, however, that they would be received in a very short time, and then the House would have an opportunity of considering the Bill in its amended shape. He thought the noble Lord must know that this was by no means a simple subject to deal with, and that it was of great importance to make the measure efficient for its purpose, so as to prevent attorneys having an opportunity of vexing those who were in possession of encumbered property.—Bill read a second time.